UB English department adopts plan to strengthen doctoral program

A teaching assistant works with a student.

Release Date: February 14, 2018 This content is archived.

Robin Schulze, dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

Robin Schulze

“Attracting top students is critical to the success of our doctoral programs.”
Robin Schulze, dean, College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – As part of an ongoing review of graduate programs, the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences has announced a plan to strengthen the English department’s doctoral program and improve the program’s long-term competitiveness.

“After a comprehensive review of the program, and in consultation with English department faculty, graduate students and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, we are taking steps to strengthen the program while also addressing our financial concerns,” said Rachel Ablow, chair of the Department of English.

To be implemented in fall 2018, the four-year plan will help the UB English department better recruit and retain top doctoral students by raising the average amount of stipends awarded to teaching assistants to $18,000 in the plan’s first two years, an increase of $3,000 from current levels.

In the plan’s third and fourth years, the average teaching assistant stipend amount will increase to $19,000. By including scholarships and fellowships in the funding package, the very best doctoral students will receive funding in the $20,000 range. The plan also factors in an annual 2 percent increase to stipend levels over the next two years, per a new contract agreed upon by the Graduate Student Employees Union and New York State.

Stipends are awarded to top students to recruit them into the program. These students then serve as teaching assistants within the program while earning their doctoral degrees. Teaching assistants are expected to put in no more than 20 hours toward their teaching effort per week — inclusive of contact time, preparation and office hours — during the nine-month academic year. Learning to teach constitutes a vital part of each student’s doctoral education.

Under the new plan, English department stipends will exceed the national average of $16,364 among public institutions in the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of the top research universities in the U.S. and Canada, of which UB is a member.

To achieve the new stipend levels, the English department will reduce doctoral student enrollment by 15 students over the next four years, bringing total doctoral enrollment to 50 students. The College of Arts and Sciences will fund the hiring of two clinical faculty members to support the remaining teaching load.

“The plan for the English department’s doctoral program resulted from an ongoing analysis of academic departments where doctoral stipend levels are below national benchmarks,” said Robin Schulze, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Attracting top students is critical to the success of our doctoral programs.”

The college also is currently engaged in a review of doctoral programs and stipend levels in the departments of Comparative Literature and Philosophy. The college has already worked with chairs to raise stipend levels in the departments of Communication, Biological Sciences and Chemistry.

“We continue to make progress in our comprehensive effort to strengthen all graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, and improve the outcomes of students enrolled in these programs,” Schulze said.  

Stipends are part of funding packages used to recruit talented students into graduate programs at top universities. The total funding package awarded to UB doctoral students across all academic disciplines averages about $38,000 annually and includes a stipend, tuition scholarship and health insurance.

UB’s financial package for graduate assistantships is nationally competitive and reflects a university investment of more than $48.5 million in 2016-17. UB’s investment in stipends and tuition scholarships for graduate students has grown by $7.4 million over the past four years. The UB Foundation provides $4.16 million annually in support of UB graduate students in the form of scholarships, fellowships and graduate student stipends.


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